Section 319 Cr.P.C. springs out of the doctrine judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur (Judge is condemned when guilty is acquitted) and this doctrine is used as a beacon light while explaining the ambit and the spirit underlying the enactment of Section 319 Cr.P.C.
It is the duty of the Court to do justice by punishing the real culprit. Where the investigating agency for any reason does not array one of the real culprits as an accused, the court is not powerless in calling the said accused to face trial.
Section 319 Cr.P.C. is quoted hereunder:
“319 Cr.P.C. -Power to proceed against other persons appearing to be guilty of offence.-
(1) Where, in the course of any inquiry into, or trial of, an offence, it appears from the evidence that any person not being the accused has committed any offence for which such person could be tried together with the accused, the Court may proceed against such person for the offence which he appears to have committed.
(2) Where such person is not attending the Court, he may be arrested or summoned, as the circumstances of the case may require, for the purpose aforesaid.
(3) Any person attending the Court, although not under arrest or upon a summons, may be detained by such Court for the purpose of the inquiry into, or trial of, the offence which he appears to have committed.
(4) Where the Court proceeds against any person under sub- section (1), then-
(a) the proceedings in respect of such person shall be commenced afresh, and the witnesses re-heard;
(b) subject to the provisions of clause (a), the case may proceed as if such person had been an accused person when the Court took cognizance of the offence upon which the inquiry or trial was commenced.”
The object to insert the provision
For the empowerment of the courts to ensure that the criminal administration of justice works properly, the law was appropriately codified and modified by the legislature under the Cr.P.C. indicating as to how the courts should proceed in order to ultimately find out the truth so that an innocent does not get punished but at the same time, the guilty are brought to book under the law.
Degree of Satisfaction
Section 319(1) Cr.P.C. empowers the court to proceed against other persons who appear to be guilty of offence, though not an accused before the court.
The word “appear” means “clear to the comprehension”, or a phrase near to, if not synonymous with “proved”. It imparts a lesser degree of probability than proof.
In Pyare Lal Bhargava v. The State of Rajasthan, AIR 1963 SC 1094, a four-Judge Bench of Supreme Court was concerned with the meaning of the word ‘appear’. The court held that the appropriate meaning of the word ‘appears’ is ‘seems’. It imports a lesser degree of probability than proof.
In Ram Singh & Ors. v. Ram Niwas & Anr., (2009) 14 SCC 25, a two-Judge Bench of Supreme Court was again required to examine the importance of the word ‘appear’ as appearing in the Section. The Court held that for the fulfillment of the condition that it appears to the court that a person had committed an offence, the court must satisfy itself about the existence of an exceptional circumstance enabling it to exercise an extraordinary jurisdiction.
What is, therefore, necessary for the court is to arrive at a satisfaction that the evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution, if unrebutted, may lead to conviction of the persons sought to be added as an accused in the case.
At the time of taking cognizance, the court has to see whether a prima facie case is made out to proceed against the accused. Under Section 319 Cr.P.C., though the test of prima facie case is the same, the degree of satisfaction that is required is much stricter.
A two- Judge Bench of the Court in Vikas v. State of Rajasthan, 2013 (11) SCALE 23, held that on the objective satisfaction of the court a person may be ‘arrested’ or ‘summoned’, as the circumstances of the case may require, if it appears from the evidence that any such person not being the accused has committed an offence for which such person could be tried together with the already arraigned accused persons.
In Rajendra Singh v. State of U.P. & Anr., AIR 2007 SC 2786, the Court observed:
“Be it noted, the court need not be satisfied that he has committed an offence. It need only appear to it that he has committed an offence. In other words, from the evidence it need only appear to it that someone else has committed an offence, to exercise jurisdiction under Section 319 of the Code. Even then, it has a discretion not to proceed, since the expression used is “may” and not “shall”.
The legislature apparently wanted to leave that discretion to the trial court so as to enable it to exercise its jurisdiction under this section. The expression “appears” indicates an application of mind by the court to the evidence that has come before it and then taking a decision to proceed under Section 319 of the Code or not.”
In Mohd. Shafi v. Mohd. Rafiq & Anr., AIR 2007 SC 1899, Supreme Court held that it is evident that before a court exercises its discretionary jurisdiction in terms of Section 319 Cr.P.C., it must arrive at a satisfaction that there exists a possibility that the accused so summoned in all likelihood would be convicted.
In Sarabjit Singh & Anr. v. State of Punjab & Anr., AIR 2009 SC 2792, while explaining the scope of Section 319 Cr.P.C., a two-Judge Bench of the Court observed:
“….For the aforementioned purpose, the courts are required to apply stringent tests; one of the tests being whether evidence on record is such which would reasonably lead to conviction of the person sought to be summoned……Whereas the test of prima facie case may be sufficient for taking cognizance of an offence at the stage of framing of charge, the court must be satisfied that there exists a strong suspicion.
While framing charge in terms of Section 227 of the Code, the court must consider the entire materials on record to form an opinion that the evidence if unrebutted would lead to a judgment of conviction. Whether a higher standard be set up for the purpose of invoking the jurisdiction under Section 319 of the Code is the question. The answer to these questions should be rendered in the affirmative.
Unless a higher standard for the purpose of forming an opinion to summon a person as an additional accused is laid down, the ingredients thereof viz. (i) an extraordinary case, and (ii) a case for sparingly (sic sparing) exercise of jurisdiction, would not be satisfied.”
In Brindaban Das & Ors. v. State of West Bengal, AIR 2009 SC 1248, a two-Judge Bench of the Court took a similar view observing that the court is required to consider whether such evidence would be sufficient to convict the person being summoned. Since issuance of summons under Section 319 Cr.P.C. entails a de novo trial and a large number of witnesses may have been examined and their re-examination could prejudice the prosecution and delay the trial, the trial court has to exercise such discretion with great care and perspicacity.
A similar view has been re-iterated by Supreme Court in Michael Machado & Anr. v. Central Bureau of Investigation & Ors., AIR 2000 SC 1127.
In Palanisamy Gounder & Anr. v. State, represented by Inspector of Police, (2005) 12 SCC 327, Supreme Court deprecated the practice of invoking the power under Section 319 Cr.P.C. just to conduct a fishing inquiry, as in that case, the trial court exercised that power just to find out the real truth, though there was no valid ground to proceed against the person summoned by the court.
In ‘Hardeep Puri v. State of Punjab (2014)’ the Supreme Court concluded that,
“Power under Section 319 Cr.P.C. is a discretionary and an extra- ordinary power. It is to be exercised sparingly and only in those cases where the circumstances of the case so warrant. It is not to be exercised because the Magistrate or the Sessions Judge is of the opinion that some other person may also be guilty of committing that offence. Only where strong and cogent evidence occurs against a person from the evidence led before the court that such power should be exercised and not in a casual and cavalier manner.
Thus, we hold that though only a prima facie case is to be established from the evidence led before the court not necessarily tested on the anvil of Cross-Examination, it requires much stronger evidence than mere probability of his complicity. The test that has to be applied is one which is more than prima facie case as exercised at the time of framing of charge, but short of satisfaction to an extent that the evidence, if goes unrebutted, would lead to conviction.
In the absence of such satisfaction, the court should refrain from exercising power under Section 319 Cr.P.C. In Section 319 Cr.P.C. the purpose of providing if ‘it appears from the evidence that any person not being the accused has committed any offence’ is clear from the words “for which such person could be tried together with the accused.” The words used are not ‘for which such person could be convicted’. There is, therefore, no scope for the Court acting under Section 319 Cr.P.C. to form any opinion as to the guilt of the accused.”
 Hardeep Puri v. State of Punjab (2014)